Developer Sucker Punch isn't new to the gaming industry, having impressed the masses with the Sly Cooper franchise on the PlayStation(R)2, and inFamous is their 1st outing on the PS3. The rated T for Teen inFamous is a PS3 exclusive, so no Xbox360 plans for this game, which is very good for PS3 owners as 2009 seems to be a good year for PS3 exclusive titles.
The setup is basic super hero fare: everyday bike courier delivers a package that ends up being a bomb that devastates the city while granting him super powers based on electricity. This also sets up the city being quarantined by the government and presents the player with the 3 islands of your sandboxed city. Add to this an inexplicable plague that has hit the city and you have your civilians that roam the streets, some of them falling over mid stride. Sure there is no reason for the plague at the beginning; as if it's a vehicle for the game to drop tons of random civilians in your area at any given time. A generic story early on with a plot device solely for the purpose of populating the city: OK, I agree with him on that.
The presentation is also kind of jarring. The animation of the enemies and civilians seems a little choppy and clunky, especially for a PS3 game. The models seem too much like plastic dolls for my taste. At times, with the lighting and shading, they look like really good dolls instead of high quality digital characters. There are only a handful of enemies in each section, meaning you will be fighting the same enemy gang members over and over in a particular section of the city. The cut scenes have very wooden movements with the characters moving like robots during their dialogues at times.
Getting those negatives out of the way, the start of the game has one of the most enjoyable "Press START" sequences I've played in a very long time. The progression of the story is enjoyable (if you go along with the story) and though the voice acting is heavy handed given the game's situation it is enjoyable to listen to. The main character animation is much better than the civilian and enemy animation and his movement set is smooth, easy to get into and is solid enough for the action game that it is set in. Again: this is a mixed bag which I was not expecting from Sucker Punch on the PS3.
So it seems like our sarcastic friend was right on some points. To him, someone whose games are associated with cutting edge technology in the video game industry, a game that doesn't look polished and not presented in its best light is laughable at best, embarrassing and not worth playing at worst. Since his games can live or die by these tenets, he was expecting more from inFamous and it didn't deliver according to his standards, and I agree with most of his points.
But do you know what Jerry and I did as soon as we got back to our respective homes at 4am that morning? We popped inFamous in our PS3's and played for at least an hour each! The basis of what Jerry and I did, completely independent of each other, was simple; we wanted to get back to playing a game that we both thought was fun, even after having some flaws of the game thrown in our faces!
So, let's talk about why we loved playing inFamous.
First and foremost: you are a walking high voltage battery, wielding enough electrical energy to restart city substations, revive sickly pedestrians and fry groups of folks with power to spare. The control scheme makes handling the many powers you will gain access to easy and accessible. Within a few minutes, you will be throwing lightning bolts like you throw a football or baseball, just much more accurately! All that power comes with some caveats: you can't fall in any large body of water and you must constantly recharge yourself after using your powers. The exception is your basic lightning bolt attack will not use any of your "ammunition energy". The many ways you can combine your attacks to make custom combos are part of the fun making the amount of ways to dispatch your enemies, or civilians, inherently fun to use and get to master.
This brings up the morality system which is pretty simple: the more good deeds you do, such as healing the sick and assisting the police, the more the city sees you as a hero. The more villainous you act, such as killing, well, everyone, will have the city hating you. Not only will the storyline and cut scenes change a bit with your alignment, your character's stance and appearance will change as well. The citizen and police AI will also act accordingly: if you are really good, they will assist you in fighting some enemy gang members at times. If you are really evil, they will start to fight you wherever you are. You'll want to pick one side and stick with it as a few powers are alignment based and you will not get to its strongest level quickly if you are constantly flipping between doing equally good and deeds.
The movement controls are for the most part well done, with a major emphasis on free running and urban exploring. You can run and jump up, on, and over pretty much any solid object you see in the city, including power lines and train tracks with the skill of an Olympic gymnast. Climbing the walls of many buildings is very easy to do once the proper handholds are found; though traversing down the walls of most buildings is not as fluid at times. Due to his newfound powers, you'll be jumping off most buildings and highpoints as he takes no damage from such falls...unless it's into a fountain.
The mission structure is such that the more of them you complete, the more of that section of the island comes under your control. Each of the 3 islands starts off partially blacked out. Restarting a substation not only brings power back to that part of the island, but also grants you a new power. This is important in 2 ways: not only for the new power you get, but also for the fact that you are weaker when traveling though blacked out parts of the city and must rely on rooftop generators or human targets to recharge your electrical powers. Once 100% of the island is freed from the local gangs, you have a boss to find and confront which will advance the story.
Or you can just play in the sandbox looking for enemies to fry, maybe pick a fight with the cops or do your good or evil deeds of the day while looking for scattered items throughout the city. It's up to you. Do you feel like blowing up a gas station? Go for it! Do you want to heal the wounded until you get your trophy, OK, Doctor! Do you feel the need to drain the electrical life essence out of anyone talking smack to you in the street? Knock yourself out! Would you like to turn a taxi into an electrically charged grenade and electromagnetically toss it into a group of enemies? Make it happen! There are so many options to choose from.
And that, my friends, is what I was expecting from this and pretty much every game I want to enjoy:
inFamous is a fun, enjoyable sandbox where I can shoot lightning from my hands and make the people praise or fear me (I played both alignments simultaneously for my review) as I light up my targets, be they dastardly or innocent, like holiday ornaments! With the missteps that this game has, it still contains more than enough good points to keep me coming back for more. Besides, I'd rather play a fun game that doesn't quite hit its mark as far as presentation than play a phenomenal looking game that plays like garbage. Or worse, play a game that looks amazing, dazzling me with its realistic graphics, but has a game play mechanic so limited that I'll only play it for a week.
With Sucker Punch's inFamous, a PlayStation(R)3 exclusive, I happily got everything I wanted.
Alejandro's GameCore Review Equation: (Intermediate) (+Electrical powered attacks * 16) - slightly detracting animation - repetitive enemies + Easy to get into + Challenging to master + Action Packed * (Fun * 2) + (Fry any and everyone, if you choose) = Great Buy
Produced by Alejandro K. Brown